Careers Guidance and Education in Schools

old schoolThe 2011 Education Act made a radical change in provision for careers advice for young people. Responsibility had traditionally been with an external advice agency – originally the LA careers service and from 2002 with Connexions. The Act passed this responsibility on to schools with provisos that it should be ‘independent and impartial’ and involve people other than just school staff. During the passage of the Act, Lib Dems in the Lords had fought hard to make it mandatory that each young person should have a one-to-one interview with a properly qualified external careers’ adviser. We did this partly because we knew schools did not have the resources to provide the service but also because academisation and increasing competition for sixth formers meant that many schools were putting pressure on young people to stay on in school to do AS and A levels, rather than telling them about vocational and apprenticeship opportunities available through the local FE college – indeed we knew of examples where schools had refused to allow the local FE college even to distribute a prospectus to pupils.

Michael Gove opposed the proposal, arguing strongly that Coalition policy was to give schools autonomy and independence and it was up to schools to decide what was best for their pupils. At the same time, however, the £200m which in 2010-11 had been allocated by DfE to the Connexions service somehow disappeared and was not reallocated to schools to fund their new responsibilities. As one head teacher put it, “If I have to choose between spending money on extra maths and English coaching for better GCSE grades by which I am assessed or on buying in careers’ advice, it’s a no-brainer.”

In the meantime the provision of careers’ education in schools came in for a good deal of criticism from many different directions. The Commons Select Committee in its 2012-13 session produced a very critical report noting that there had been a “worrying deterioration in overall provision” and that “the quality, independence and impartiality of careers guidance being offered to young people is a central concern”. Ofsted in a thematic review of careers education concluded in their report (September 2013) “very few of the schools visited knew how to provide a service effectively or had the skills and expertise needed to provide a comprehensive service”, and John Cridland, Director General of the CBI talked about careers advice being “on life support in many areas as schools struggle with the statutory duty” (Speech 19 June 2013).

New guidance issued in April 2014 is in many respects the response to these criticisms. The emphasis is now on schools linking up with business, making “real world connections” and engaging with those who are “enthusiastic and passionate about their own careers”. Advice still has to be independent, impartial and external to the school but these requirements may be fulfilled by programme of external visits, employer links, mentoring, alumni ambassadors, and access to web-sites, web chats and telephone advice lines. ‘Inspiration and aspiration’ are the dominant themes. All of which is good and was wholehearted endorsed in a speech by Nick Clegg who, behind the scenes, had played a major role in pushing it through. But those of us who battled the 2011 Act are left wondering whether inspiration is really enough. Ofsted in its 2013 report called for schools to improve employer links but also, crucially, to develop a clear strategy for careers’ guidance, promote proper training for staff involved and to use ‘external’ careers’ guidance professionals. Neither these recommendations, nor the £200m needed by schools to implement them, get any mention in this new guidance.

* Baroness Margaret Sharp is an economist who has worked in the civil service and at the LSE and University of Sussex.

Read more by .
This entry was posted in News.
Advert

13 Comments

  • Richard Dean 25th Jul '14 - 2:19pm

    Is career guidance really best done by schools? Could it be done by a different organization? Are the skills and knowledge the same for teaching a curriculum as for providing careers advice, of for organizing visits to industry etc?

    Why not have advice provided by a different organization, with government support but perhaps partly funded by companies? Linked and supportive of schools, but providing an independence that can be appreciated by pupils?

    Maybe able to address problems in a more creative way? Perhaps finding ways to better manage the sometimes traumatic transition from school to work?

  • Little Jackie Paper 25th Jul '14 - 2:28pm

    Richard Dean – Good point. There is loads of advice now from things like professional societies freely available. Schools are not the only, and probably not the best, place for career advice.

  • Cara Jenkinson 25th Jul '14 - 3:39pm

    Margaret – I’m glad you’ve put up this post. I am a governor of the secondary school that my two teenage children attend. I have not been impressed by careers advice – it is not seen by the school as a priority – as you point out – not entirely their fault as the current inspection regime focuses on attainment and progress. Richard is right that it is not realistic to expect schools to have expertise, but what they should be doing is making sure that pupils have access to the experts, and actively getting those experts into the school. Good careers advice is so critical, but at the moment no-one, neither local authorities or central government seems to be holding schools to account for it.

  • Charles Rothwell 25th Jul '14 - 3:59pm

    This is a perennial bug-bear of mine and has been for over forty years (i.e. since I was at school!) The “advice” we received from the “school’s careers advisor” (a chemistry tutor who had obviously taken on the role in order to gain an extra salary point or two) was a joke as far as most of us was concerned as, being a grammar school, the more or less total assumption was that you would just jump over the hurdles (O Level, A Level), go on to university, do a degree and everything would drop into place then! I agree entirely with what Richard and others above say. In my view, schools (especially ones with Sixth Forms) should not be let within a hundred miles of providing careers advice at crucial stages of the latter’s academic careers and, while I think the Lords’ call for every pupil to have “a” one-to-one interview, I actually think every pupil should have a series of them at key points (11, 13, 15 and 17, sa) AND that this should be provided, as others have said by an outside organisation which is fully equipped with psychometric testing facilities, instant total access to information on job trends and, crucially and most basically of all, can get away from this English hang-up that the ‘only route’ for ‘the brightest’ is the well-trodden path (which (as Vince Cable pointed out in one speech (and got into trouble for!) is the one most teachers trod without gaining many other experiences!) of A Levels and then a degree (preferably at a “Russell Group” university!) One of the really innovative steps taken by this Government has been the introduction of university technology colleges, very closely linked to employers and with a clear focus on developing pupils’ career paths into areas for which they feel suited and which are superbly equipped and (at last!) go some way to bring about real parity of esteem between academic and vocational education and training. Other countries (Germany, France, Japan) just do not have this hang-up and think it is all downhill after PPE (or, even better, Classics) at Oxbridge! (Talking of universities, much of the “careers advice” for undergraduates (and even postgraduates (MA students not intending to proceed to doctorates) is fairly lamentable in far too many cases. As the quote from the h

  • Charles Rothwell 25th Jul '14 - 4:00pm

    This is a perennial bug-bear of mine and has been for over forty years (i.e. since I was at school!) The “advice” we received from the “school’s careers advisor” (a chemistry tutor who had obviously taken on the role in order to gain an extra salary point or two) was a joke as far as most of us was concerned as, being a grammar school, the more or less total assumption was that you would just jump over the hurdles (O Level, A Level), go on to university, do a degree and everything would drop into place then! I agree entirely with what Richard and others above say. In my view, schools (especially ones with Sixth Forms) should not be let within a hundred miles of providing careers advice at crucial stages of the latter’s academic careers and, while I think the Lords’ call for every pupil to have “a” one-to-one interview, I actually think every pupil should have a series of them at key points (11, 13, 15 and 17, sa) AND that this should be provided, as others have said by an outside organisation which is fully equipped with psychometric testing facilities, instant total access to information on job trends and, crucially and most basically of all, can get away from this English hang-up that the ‘only route’ for ‘the brightest’ is the well-trodden path (which (as Vince Cable pointed out in one speech (and got into trouble for!) is the one most teachers trod without gaining many other experiences!) of A Levels and then a degree (preferably at a “Russell Group” university!) One of the really innovative steps taken by this Government has been the introduction of university technology colleges, very closely linked to employers and with a clear focus on developing pupils’ career paths into areas for which they feel suited and which are superbly equipped and (at last!) go some way to bring about real parity of esteem between academic and vocational education and training. Other countries (Germany, France, Japan) just do not have this hang-up and think it is all downhill after PPE (or, even better, Classics) at Oxbridge! (Talking of universities, much of the “careers advice” for undergraduates (and even postgraduates (MA students not intending to proceed to doctorates) is fairly lamentable in far too many cases. As the quote from the Head in the article makes clear, there has been far too much exam results atomization of the education system at all levels. We need to put the child/pupil/student/person back at the centre and (and not pay lip service as with Labour’s “Every child matters” etc.)

  • Little Jackie Paper 25th Jul '14 - 8:20pm

    Charles Rothwell – With respect (and to be clear I do mean that). There are some very rose-tinted views of the continent at the moment. Germany has found that its routes can be inflexible. Indeed, the day of reckoning for the German training system may yet come.

    My concern more though is a bit broader. I work a bit with career advice and a consistent worry is how often I hear the sentence, ‘I’ve heard there are loads of jobs in….’ Lots of young people are stunned when you show them the six month unemployment figure for engineering. IT is another that has been notorious for years for having far too many people. Even the trades have suffered badly, particularly with near-zero new build. Even amongst the professions there is some slack advice at times.

    My point is that advice is just that – advice. I have a suspicion that your parity is not quite going to have the effect you think it would. Quite often the kids work it out for themselves.

  • Paul Reynolds 26th Jul '14 - 3:32am

    It us true that the German, French, Dutch and Sandanavian career-related systems in schools are not perfect. But the key point is that they are better, much better, than the UK. We have much to learn from the best bits of each country. In career related services the actual face to face ‘advice’ seems to come fourth. First are employability skills (which may not be part of the general curriculum). Second is the provision of up to date information about skills needs and shortages. Third is good quality and comprehensive information about courses and apprenticeships (etc) available – especially vocational courses, and jobs with training and a development path. This all implies a much better connection to local and national employers and SME organizations, and better survey data. However many in the UK including LibDems quite rightly are concerned that the poor local checks and balances in the UK mean that the collection of data on skills needed and shortages, would lead to the education system becoming the servant of big business, to the detriment of liberal society and the eclectic culture underlying British creativity. This danger should be understood. Ultimately though it is a disservice to those in the education system that pupils and students are thinking about careers in absence of informationabout opportunities and even about dire shortages a short walk from schools and colleges. From my own experiences the same fears have led to some vocational colleges deliberately designing course programmed in absence of any knowledge of local and regional needs. I confess to having been shocked at the low quality and low ambition of some local vocational colleges in the UK, some of which take a minimalist ‘tick box’ approach to the courses they provide, seemingly with an easy life as a primary motivation….. and part of the problem seems to be that they see their ‘custoner’ as Whitehall bureaucrats with mindless targets, rather than the students and the wider community.

  • Sorry, I am old fashioned enough to think that bias in advice can creep in when private sector external agencies are used. I also agree that it needs to be external to schools, and that anything “clientised” from Whitehall is liable to be too distant and influenced by the latest tabloid agenda. Like so much that has been centralised, we, the people, need democratic control, and it should be managed and run by a local principal council. Margaret Sharp is of a generation who knows what is possible, and has worked a lifetime in the educational field. I would hope she would be trying to return the overall system to something that works, and not following the latest organisational whim!

  • LJP, if you DO mean it, why on earth say “with respect”?? Find a neutral phrase if you really must.

  • Sylvia Walker 26th Jul '14 - 12:03pm

    My story illustrates the problem. I dropped out of my grammar school (many years ago) not because of a lack of ability but because of a lack of information, role models and encouragement from family or teachers. Jobs were plentiful and I went into local government. In my late twenties, through sheer hard work (day release. night school etc ) and a failed early marriage, I finally made it to university specialising in social psychology and education. At last it all made sense.
    Following graduation I joined the Careers Service (then in local governmen) so that I could make a difference to ‘people like me’ from poor inner city homes. I did a further 2 years postgraduate study to qualify as a Careers Adviser. and I’ve had a long and rewarding career. Fortunately I became self employed before Mr Gove’s ‘policies’ took effect but I have seen the dismantling of an impartial (if not perfect )system .We in the careers guidance profession know what good practice looks like , which includes, but does not solely depend on strong parnerships with employers. What has been missing is the political will to listen to the evidence and implement corrective action.

  • Peter Chivall 26th Jul '14 - 12:50pm

    Richard Dean poses a number of questions above. When Labour created the Connexions system out of the County Careers Advice services in 2002 they specified a number of things: Careers Advice (and Guidance) should be offered in schools but the organisation should be independent of the schools. (Avoiding the temptation to suggest ‘Bums in 6th Form classes’ for those not suited to academic education.)The Advice and Guidance should be available for all from 13 to 19 (and for those with Special Needs to Age 25). Additional assistance for those with problems with attendance or discipline from a team of Intensive Advisers who would support the young person through GCSE and beyond. For those leaving school at 16+ there were Information Advisers working with (but not for), local JobCentres to advise on FE courses and pre-Apprenticeship programmes for the 1 in 3 of young people in danger of becoming NEET (not in Education, Employment or Training).
    This system worked for 4 years from 2002 to 2006, but then greedy, envious and incompetent people saw what a success it was and decided they want a) its money, b) its expertise and c) its success for their pet projects. In our City, a first-rate Connexions service was handed over to be managed by a 3rd-rate Youth Service (which had twice failed its OFSTED inspections). The Service managed to carry on until 2011 when as we know it was handed to Schools as part of the Balkanisation of Education under the Coalition.
    If I could reset the clock, I would reset it to 2006.

  • Schools need to contact the following
    1. Look at industries and ask trade associations to give talks at 11, 13, 15 and 17 years of age to pupils i.e Cicil Engineering Contractors Association.
    2. Ask trade associations want they want as far as education, technicals skills and attitude from people at 16, 18 and early 20s.
    3. Ask trade associations and companies which subjects and paths top managers took. If head of R and D for the last 30 years has included people with doctorates from Cambridge and Imperial only, then one knows route to take. If every manager started as an apprentices , followed by evening school and then took exams to become a Chartered Engineer, then one knows route to take.
    4. No school can know everything about careers but a few teachers can be asked to approach trade , associations and those responsible for employment in small, medium and large companies. Armed Forces are usually keen to visit schools. I know that the Royal Green Jackets were speaking to 13 year olds at Eton interesting them in joining the regiment
    5. Most universities are keen to be approached by schools and asked for advice about entry. Too often top universities would like to accept pupils but they have the wrong A Levels or do not have Further Maths A Level.
    6. Too many teachers from minor universities persuade pupils from poor backgrounds from applying to top universities.
    7. Many employers would prefer to take a 16 or 18 year old with good GSCEs or A Levels who are enthusiastic to learn , fit and healthy rather than some one in the early 20s with poor degree in subject of no academic merit from a low ranking university.
    8. If teachers given task have common sense and good judgement, then they can soon assess which employers , colleges and universities are good, average or bad.

  • peter tyzack 28th Jul '14 - 10:55am

    love the old photo, where on earth did you find it.?.. no school looks like that anymore..!

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • Mary ReidMary Reid
    Dear Theakes - I am not sure why you are asking me that question. If you fully support the Lib Dems you know what the answer is: join the party, get involved an...
  • expats
    Adrian Sanders, your article reminds me of the old joke about the military parade where Mrs. Sanders's boy "is the only one in step".... You'll have no truc...
  • theakes
    Dear Mary, Like many I live in a seat where the Lib Dems could not field a single candidate in the County elections and where one fully expects a lost deposit ...
  • Brad Barrows
    The time to create a Progressive Alliance is after the next election if no party wins an overall majority. In that situation, the Liberal Democrats should work ...
  • TonyH
    Excellent article Mary. All LibDems in Blue Wall seats please read....